Select no more than three goals to focus on at one time. Ideally, focusing only on one at a time. It’s important to write these goals down every single day. I do not currently do this but try to most days. Doing so allows you to check-in with your goal(s) and yourself to make sure that what you are working towards continues to align with your values and what you want out of life.
As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melanie Hartmann, owner of Creo Home Buyers, a house-buying company in Maryland.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?
Well, I was born and raised in Baltimore, MD. Having grown up in Baltimore, I knew there was so much good there and I felt that the best way for me to make a positive impact was to work in that school system. Through lots of trials and tribulations, I became a school psychologist and landed a job in that district. Unfortunately, after several years, I realized that while I loved much of what I did, the career was ultimately not a good fit for me. While I no longer actively work in the field of school psychology, it still holds a very dear place in my heart. I now own and operate a house-buying company in Baltimore, MD.
As our business grows, the more we will be able to work on our mission of supporting disadvantaged youth by supporting academic interventions in schools, job training, and scholarships for college.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am working on establishing the credibility of our company and the visibility of our website so that we can reach more people that might need to or benefit from selling their property in a non-traditional way. The more the business grows, the more value we provide to others, makes achieving our mission and our vision of helping others more of a reality.
In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?
and a genuine desire to help others. Yes, I am in this business with the goal to make a profit on every single deal we do. However, our underlying mission drives us forward and our plan is to begin actively focusing on this mission in 2020. As our company grows, so will the positive impact that we will be able to make in the lives of others who might have had the odds stacked against them as I did growing up. I want to be able to provide that support to those who want it and need it. I know that without outside help and support I likely would not have made it nearly as far as I did.
Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?
I honestly don’t remember exactly when the idea of investing in real estate first popped into my head, but I believe it may have been when I was about 19 or 20. I remember when my mother purchased her first house and her realtor showed us a chart that detailed exactly how much money she had “thrown away” on rent over the years. It was shocking to me. That chart showed me the value of owning rental properties and I just knew that investing in real estate was ultimately something that I wanted to do.
Money of course was needed, as was a secure and steady job so that I could afford to purchase these properties. Well, I checked off all of those boxes and had saved up for a down payment on a rental property. By the time I was ready to buy, the market had begun to pick up again and what I had saved was no longer enough. I looked for almost a year, but I had no properties to show for it. I researched how other investors acquired their properties and I decided to leave my relatively safe and steady full-time career as a school psychologist, a career that I had worked so incredibly hard to obtain, to jump all in into real estate investing full-time. Many people cautioned me not to but I came to realize that if you want things you’ve never had, you must do things you’ve never done. Yes, the possibility of failure was and is very real. Businesses go under every day! However, I just knew this was something I needed and truly wanted for myself. Ultimately, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
It was in 2018 that I made the decision to leave my career as a school psychologist to start a company that buys houses in Baltimore, MD. The day I made that decision I posted the idea on BiggerPockets, a website for networking and learning about real estate investing. The outpour of naysayers was shocking to me. I expected it from my friends and family, but I naively assumed that of all places, BiggerPockets would be the most supportive forum to express my dream of pursuing real estate investing. Though, looking back at and reading my initial post, I can understand where those naysayers were coming from. My closest friends and family all expressed their concerns about my decision, and understandably so, but ultimately stated they’d support whichever direction I decided to take. However, I knew deep down that this was what I wanted to do, and I was going to go after it. It was a crazy idea and I was fully aware that it may not work out. I also knew that if I only dipped my toe in rather than jumping in full-time, I wouldn’t give it my all, so I went all-in.
To minimize the naysayers in my life, I didn’t bring up my dream or what I was doing to most people outside of the real estate world. If you aren’t actively investing in real estate and don’t want to be, it is more than a little intimidating. Just about everyone knows at least one person who “failed” at it in some way or another and are more than happy to share those horror stories with you. I was fully aware that most people who pursue real estate investing end up giving up before they really ever get started. If I had quit after 1 month, 2 months, or even 5 months, I wouldn’t have closed on my first deal. If I had quit, I would have been just another statistic that didn’t make it. I was determined to prove to myself that I could do this and so I bore down and kept pushing.
To say that my first year in business was difficult would be an understatement. I had minimal experience in real estate, next to no connections in the real estate industry, and so many other things that were stacked against me. It was much more difficult than I anticipated but I knew it was possible even if others didn’t believe. I realized early on that in order to be successful I had to surround myself with people who were doing what I wanted to do.
In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? :-)
From the day I decided to leave my career to start a house-buying company, it took me almost six months before I closed on my first deal. Six months! And the little amount I made certainly did not come close to covering the expenses I had incurred over those six months. However, even though it was small, it was with that closed deal that I proved to myself that my dream was possible. Once that happened, I knew it would become easier to ignore or dismiss any naysayer that came my way. A few months and a few deals later I bought a property in cash that needed to be torn down. I ended up selling it to a builder and invested the vast majority of those profits back into my business. A few more deals later, and now we are rehabbing our first house of 2020 in Baltimore, MD. It’s still amazing to me to think that just two years ago how completely different my life was. Never in a million years would I have thought I would leave my career to pursue real estate investing full-time and that I’d be in the middle of rehabbing houses in Baltimore or writing an article about it such as this one.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Other than my husband, my best friends, and the family I have who have always supported me, the first person that came to mind is Jerryll Noorden. What’s even funnier is that I have yet to meet this individual in person but his influence on my real estate journey simply cannot be denied. He was there on BiggerPockets actively defending my decision against the naysayers. Why? Well, he had been there and done that himself and is now widely successful. He is a robotics scientist who used to work for NASA. He left his lucrative career to pursue real estate investing full-time without really knowing what he was doing before-hand, similar to me. He was there on BiggerPockets to put some wind in my sails. His support meant a lot to me, probably more than he will ever know. Leaving my career wasn’t the “wise” or “safe” decision but seeing someone else who had done this, struggled through it but was determined to be successful (and ultimately was) was and is truly an inspiration to me. I’m working with him now to further grow my business and I can’t wait to see what the year 2020 and beyond will bring!
It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?
My mother and I moved around a lot so I never really felt like I had a place to call home. We had many eviction scares during my childhood. I got into the habit of saving any money I received to cover any shortages in rent so we wouldn’t lose our place. As soon I was old enough to be employed, I got a job partially for this very reason. Many things were stacked against me growing up but the one thing I knew was that once I had the ability to control what happened in my life, I would not live that way as an adult. I wanted a better life for myself and any children that I might have. That was my drive early on. I just wanted to get as far away from that life as I possibly could. It took me a while to find my path but I never stopped working and searching for it. Looking back, every single thing that I have truly ever wanted in my life I have achieved or obtained through hard work and a determination not to quit. This is not to boast or brag, but it was a truth that helped me stick with this real estate journey, especially in the beginning when at times it all seemed nearly impossible. You have to believe in yourself and your mission or the slightest thing will knock you down and keep you down. Instead of saying, “I can’t” ask yourself, “How can I?” It’s truly amazing the possibilities that your brain will come up with when you remove “not” and insert “how.”
Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)
- Select no more than three goals to focus on at one time. Ideally, focusing only on one at a time. It’s important to write these goals down every single day. I do not currently do this but try to most days. Doing so allows you to check-in with your goal(s) and yourself to make sure that what you are working towards continues to align with your values and what you want out of life.
- Surround yourself with people who are doing the things that you want to do. If you are always the most experienced person in the room, you need to find yourself a new room to hang out in. Yes, it’s intimidating but once you show that you are serious those who are more experienced are often more than happy to help you move on to the next level. You just have to find the right people.
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Growth and change is uncomfortable but it’s simply a part of the process. In fact, if you are not uncomfortable in your pursuits then you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. If you want change, you have to get out of your comfort zone. There’s no other way around it. Eventually, your comfort zone will expand and what was once scary is scary no longer, pushing you to new areas of growth.
- Know that there will be challenges but they don’t mean you are on the wrong path. If you are going after and working towards something that you truly desire, you must believe that it will be worth it. Even if you have to change course and try a different path, as long as you are working towards your goal, it will all be worth it in the end.
- If you are going after something big or something that is drastically different than anything you have ever done, you must build your support network. Yes, you will find that even among the most well-meaning of your friends and family there will be a never-ending supply of naysayers. Your support network must include people who truly want to see you succeed and who will push you to keep going even when times are challenging. If you surround yourself with people who have “been there, done that” it’s a heck of a lot easier to ride out all of the storms that will inevitably arise.
What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?
ADD A JOKE OR REMOVE THIS FROM EARLIER. If you want something you’ve never had, you must do something you’ve never done. The pull towards a goal must be greater than the desire to remain the same, otherwise it will be too easy to give up once the challenges start piling on.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
NO MORE HUMBLE BEGININGS. Our mission is to give back to our local community through academic and career supports. I’m not yet sure what that will entail but it will be on a small scale in 2020. In 2021, we have plans to grow and expand the charitable side of our business. If we could eventually expand our efforts nationwide, well, that would truly be another dream come true!
Can our readers follow you on social media?
Yes, we haven’t been as active on social media as of yet but we plan to expand that side of our business in 2020 as well. You can follow us on Twitter
- Twitter Profile URL https://twitter.com/CreoInvestments
- Facebook Page URL https://www.facebook.com/CreoHomeSolutions/
- Linkedin Company Page URL https://www.linkedin.com/company/creo-home-solutions/
- Instagram Page URL https://www.instagram.com/creo.home.solutions/
- Pinterest URL https://www.pinterest.com/creohomesolutions/
Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!